ABZÛ – Diving into the wondrous unknown
Flower and Journey. Two incredible gaming experiences that creep their way to the tip of my tongue during many a conversation. Simplistic design and relaxing gameplay amidst beautiful worlds – it’s a recipe that works perfectly for my tastes. When I saw ABZÛ listed as a free game on PSN in mid-2017, I immediately wanted to add the experience to my repertoire. Though developed by an entirely different studio, the inspirations were clear. The ingredients were there, and that’s all I needed.
“A gorgeous undersea paradise, teeming with life and color and beauty.”
ABZÛ places you underwater. Admittedly my most prominent fear. I blame Super Mario 64. Yet rather than feelings of uneasiness or worry – feelings that I’d expect from the murky blue depths – I instead felt hints of wonder and calmness. A solace of sorts. Immediately upon playing, any pre-fabricated stresses washed away as I began to marvel at the incredible art direction. A gorgeous undersea paradise, teeming with life and color and beauty. Creatures of all shapes and sizes swimming steadily alongside you as you float gracefully through each level. I immediately felt like I was a part of their world. It was mesmerizing.
“…you’ll begin finding areas that feel untouched and unique to your experience.”
Navigating your way through the ocean paradise, you’ll begin finding areas that feel untouched and unique to your experience. A short swim through an underwater chasm opens up into a forest of seaweed reaching up to the heavens. A dive down into the black abyss leads you to a vast expanse of ruins from ancient civilizations. Swaying to and fro with the current along the seabed only to look up at a pod of whales passing by overhead. The experience is both captivating and cathartic. And the game knows it. In fact, ABZÛ promotes it. Through the use of meditation areas, you can quite literally just sit and watch the underwater world pass you by.
“Absence of context is supplemented by environmental storytelling and your imagination.”
For those looking for a deep story, ABZÛ won’t be your solution. The telling is abstract at best, and by the time the credits role, you’ll have more questions then when you began. The absence of context is supplemented, in part, by environmental storytelling and your own imagination. Diving deeper (no pun intended), you can make out a semblance of teachings; nature, life, stress, unity – but nothing deliberately told. To me, that makes the game even more beautiful.
“Binding everything together – an evocative, orchestral score.”
Binding everything together – an evocative, orchestral score. Wonderful on its own, yet sheer perfection when harmonizing with the gameplay. The musical arcs rise and fall as your experience evolves, but always stays within the realm of relaxation and discovery. The awe becomes understanding once you realize that the game’s composer was none other than Grammy-nominated Austin Wintory of Journey fame. And once again making remarkable use of harps and choirs and oboes, a masterpiece is born.
ABZÛ has often been touted as “Journey, but underwater”. And while I’ll admit that this is a game that borrows from the best, there’s no denying that it uses those ingredients to craft an experience that’s wholly unique and undeniably worthwhile. If you have a few short hours to spare, you owe it to yourself to immerse yourself in this world.
And as always, once you do, be sure to head on over to the Cartridge Club forums to share your thoughts.